The Parable of the Sower
4 And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable: 5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. 6And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. 7And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. 8And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
The parable of the soils describes what happens to seed that is sown in four different types of soil. The first type of soil is the hardened soil of a path. This seed doesn’t penetrate this soil at all, but is quickly snatched up by birds. The second type of soil is rocky soil, a shallow layer of earth, barely covering rock below it. Seed that falls on this kind of soil quickly germinates, helped by warmth retained by the rock, but is hindered by a lack of depth and moisture. This seed, which germinates quickly, also dies quickly. The third soil is thorny soil, a soil populated with thorns. Seed falling into this soil germinates and begins to grow, but is eventually crowded out by the hardier thorns. The fourth soil is fruitful soil; soil which produces a bountiful crop. Jesus put an exclamation point to make His point by adding these words: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (v. 8).
The Purpose of the Parable
9And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, 10he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ 11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.12The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. 14And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.15As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.
Jesus explained His purpose in speaking by means of parables – to conceal the secrets of the kingdom from the crowds, while revealing them to His followers. After explaining His purpose for using parables, Jesus explained the meaning of His parable of the soils.
Typically this parable is interpreted to explain different responses which people have toward the gospel. Usually we look at the soil as unsaved people, and the seed as the gospel. Today I looked at this parable a little differently. Verse 11 says that “the seed is the Word of God.” Yes, the gospel is a vital part of that Word but, as I dwell on this, I can see a broader meaning. How do I respond to the Word of God as a whole? When the Word of God is sown, how do I respond? The big question for me is…
Four different responses are given, along with four different causes and four distinct results. The seed which is sown is the word of God (v. 11). The hardened soil are those whose hearts are not open and unresponsive. The Word makes no impression whatsoever. Satan immediate snatches the Word away so there is no response and no fruit. Have there been times when I was unresponsive, for whatever reason, to God’s Word? YES. And that seed, when sown, is snatched away. How many blessings have I missed when I’ve been hard? TOO MANY.
The second soil—the shallow soil—represents those times when we positively (joyfully) respond to teaching from the Word, but not with any depth or perception as to what the Word really means. How many times have I been guilty of selective hearing; of hearing only the good and pleasant things, rather than hearing of the costs involved in discipleship or living the life God is truly calling me to.
The third soil, the thorny soil, represents those times when I listen with an understanding and awareness of the cost of discipleship, but am carrying the “cares of this world” too closely. Concerns for money and for things overshadow what God’s Word is saying and my priorities are not right. There are times, even when I understand the costs of discipleship, but deep down I don’t want to pay the price. There are times that I know what I’m supposed to do, but lack the commitment and true dedication to just DO IT.
The fourth soil, the good soil represents the times when I’ve prepared myself and am ready to receive the truths of God’s Word, uncluttered with competitive interests and values. When I come before open Word of God as “good soil”, the Word not only brings forth life, but what’s planted in it comes to maturity and bears fruit. Here is the goal of discipleship.
I am a child of Adam, the first man, whose name is literally interpreted as “ground, dirt”. As such, am I hard, shallow, full of cares, or am I good soil for the Word to be received and produce growth? And even if I do my utmost to not be one of the first three, am I merely a dirt clod, or am I fertile ground?
Am I keeping myself fertile through constantly plowing myself with the fertilizer of the Word and time in prayer? Do I find time to be warmed by the light of the Son, drinking His Living Water? Am I constantly caring for my soil, to keep it as fertile as possible so He CAN use it to grow good crops for His glory? Do I have ears to hear, and do I use them to listen to HIM?
Am I the Gardener’s delight as He prepares to plant, or am I simply a clod of ground? And what am I doing about it?